Haunted Fairgrounds Square Mall

The Fairgrounds Square Mall has itself become a ghost. It was just demolished over what will inevitably go down as the infamous Summer of 2020. The mall was on its last leg for years, and it only seemed fitting that it would meet its end in such a year as this one has been. However, if you spent any time working there over the course of its 40 year existence, you may have heard or seen things you couldn’t explain.

Before the mall was constructed in 1980 the land was a part of the Reading Fairgrounds and Speedway. The Fairgrounds’ history dates back to 1916, so if there were spirits haunting the mall, it was likely that this place was their origins. There were many documented deaths that occurred on the racetrack during its heyday in the 20th century.

Fairgrounds Square Mall Spirits
Penn Pilot Aerial 1971
Google Satellite 2020

Fatal Races

On Saturday, June 11th 1966 a race held at the Fairgrounds Speedway would prove to be tragic. Two racers were fatally injured when their cars collided between the first and second turns on the second lap of the race. According to the Reading Eagle article about the event below, their cars came to rest on the curve of the eastern turn. These final resting points were close to if not within the walls of the future mall. Roughly around the center court and what would eventually be Burlington, using the comparison aerials above for reference.

Fairgrounds Square Mall Ghosts
Fairgrounds Square Mall Ghosts
June 12th 1966 Reading Eagle Article

Racer Jackie Evans also perished in a race on the Reading Fairgrounds Speedway track on August 28th 1970.

August 28th 1970 fatal crash of Jackie Evans

On October 29th, 1978 the Schmidt’s 200 race was supposed to mark the last event for the Reading Fairgrounds Speedway. Michael Grbac got tangled in traffic and flipped down the front stretch on the 99th lap. His roof was facing oncoming competitors, and was hit by another driver. He succumbed to his injuries a month later in the hospital. He would be the last driver to perish in a race at the Reading Fairgrounds Speedway.

Nov 29th 1978 Reading Eagle

This race however did not end up being the last, as the Spring of 1979 season saw a few more races before the mall developers got the final go-ahead from local government to demolish the grand stands. Luckily that day did not end up being the very last memory for Reading Fairgrounds Speedway fans.

Other fatalities on the track during its tenure included racers Leon McMinn, Charlie Bubeck and Johnny Hubbard.

The 1980s paved the way for the growing retail world of the new shopping mall. People who have worked in the now-defunct shopping mall have stories about the strange things they have heard during their time there.

2017 night walk through by Berks Nostalgia – Any Fairgrounds Square Mall Ghosts?

Here are just a couple first hand accounts from two of Berks Nostalgia’s facebook page followers:

I can tell you the ones I know of at Record Town. We had the weird things like we would hear people looking through the albums or cd’s but nobody was there. That happened often. Once a coworker of mine was up at the cash register at the front of the store. She saw someone dressed all in white walk into our back room. When she went to investigate it, nobody was back there. This one happened to me. It was a slow Saturday morning. My manager was in the back room and I was the only worker on the floor. I had 2 male customers in the store. One all the way in back and one all the way up front. I was in the middle. We had no music on at the time so it was pretty quiet. Then I started to hear a female humming a tune near me. As I said I was the only female in the store and no one else was close to me. Heard a lot of other stories from other people in the mall but these are the big ones we experienced in my store.

Allison Shirk Sabo

Wow, and that is similar to my stories at Your Place. We would often catch a glimpse of someone walking around at night after close. The one waitress had a table move right in front of her, she was so scared she had to leave. We would also hear a faint phantom PA announcer talking, and that was heard many times by a bunch of us at the same time. Also would see glasses move across bar after close, if it was just me, you could call me nuts, but that was witnessed by multiple people at the same time. And of course, the usual doors closing and whispers. I could go on…

Jeffrey Kibler

Perhaps these experiences were the footsteps of racers and the echos of the announcers reverberating through space and time from the Reading Fairgrounds Speedway?

Have your own story? Post it in the comments

Born and raised in Berks, I am fascinated by the style, design & culture of the mid-late 20th century. I started this website to research and build a collection of the places, things and stories I have heard about my entire life. Read more here.

12 Replies to “Haunted Fairgrounds Square Mall”

  1. Not sure of the year , but at the Reading Fairgrounds race track Jackie Evans was killed on the homestretch . I also think that another driver was killed between the 3rd and 4th turn . I want to say a pipe went through him . Can’t think of the name nor the year. Maybe someone else will remember

    1. I believe that driver was Charlie Bubeck, with the crash involving the hurricane fence that separated the pit area from the beginning of the front stretch before the pit exit next to the infield stage. If I recall correctly, one of the crossmembers of that fence impaled the driver through the chest. That was in the final year of the flat-head stock cars, referring to the flat-head engines of the early 1950’s and earlier.

    2. I have many stories to share… I worked and managed a store called Main Ingredient from 1981-1985 (jeans store similar to what The Gap was), we were located approximately half way between center court and Boscovs. The encounters I would have would mostly be in the evening hours of business. My co-workers and I had often seen a dark clouded image walk along the wall where our jean were stacked as well as pass by our dressing rooms. Many times you could feel a faint breeze while this was happening and you could hear each dressing room door sightly open and close as the image passed by. This happened on a regular basis, at times jeans would even suddenly fall off the wall. As I investigated what was happening I was told it was the spirit of race car driver Jackie Evans who was killed during a race in 1970. There was a period of time when we were without an assistant manager so I would work closing shift every day. About 6 times (in a 4 month period) after closing the store I would receive a phone call from mall security around 2 o’clock in the morning stating that our back entrance door was swinging open. Now understand the steel door had a push bar on the inside, so the only way it could be open is with the only key that was in my possession or someone was in the store and pushed the door open. The first time I met security at the store and there was no explanation. The front gate was down and locked and no one was in the store since I left. After this continued to happen repeatedly at 2:00 am, our only explanation was that is was Jackie Evans being mischievous. Oh, I am not even close to being done lol…..I remember one of my co-workers coming to me one day stating that the bathroom in our stock area was locked. I investigated by knocking on the door, trying the knob…it was definitely locked from the inside. I was about ready to call maintenance and all of the sudden the water in the sink turned on. Now it was sort of creeping me out. The water stopped after about 5 minutes so I decided to try the door again and I was able to open the bathroom door and no one was in there. I am not sure of the location of the store where I worked in comparison to where Jackie Evans was killed in 1970, but there was definitely a strong presence in the Main Ingredient store. Like others, I have also experienced hearing a faint PA announcer talking while walking through the mall at night and seeing clouded images in the mall that would walk by the store while we were open. Typically all of this would have freaked me out, but living it first hand oddly didn’t. We all, in my store, actually started talking to Jackie Evans whether we were seeing images or not. We would greet him when opening and say goodbye at the end of our shifts and if jeans would be on the floor we would simply say “thanks Jackie” lol. It was definitely eerie, but we learned to share the space.

      Vicki Kissling, Galloway Twp., NJ

  2. There are many “haunting” stories about the Fairgrounds Square Mall. A local TV station did a story on the Mall being haunted during one of the early Reading Racing Reunions & Car Show events around 1989. It aligns closely to what was stated here. I started the Race Car Show at the Mall in 1986 and the show went on for over thirty years. This story did miss calling out the fatalities of Leon McMinn, Charlie Bubeck, Jackie Evans and Johnny Hubbard, all taking place on the Reading Fairgrounds Speedway. There were other deaths from the earlier history of the Reading Fairgrounds as well. I’ve walked every inch of that Mall, was in all the back rooms and hallways and I always had a feeling someone was watching or close by. I recall one memory of the Tom McCann Show Store. Their cash registered one day locked on the numbers 51, the car number of the deceased Charlie Bubeck. Charlie lost his life in a turn four crash. Bob Miller Organizer of the Reading Racing Reunion & Car.

  3. I humbly refer you to the book “Ghost Stories of Berks County,” which includes stories about the hauntings in the mall and, particularly, Boscov’s.

  4. I worked at different places throughout the mall over the years. PharMor, Burger King, Cost Cutters, Capelli hair salon and Dominico Express hair salon. You can hear different sounds (I never saw anything) throughout the mall. Every Saturday night around 10pm (I think it was, it’s been over 20 yrs) I heard a car accident right where the keyboard shop/ Taco Casa was. The first time I heard that, that was the only time I got scared by one of the “erie noises”.

  5. I attended many races at the Reading Fairgrounds and in 1962 I was at almost every one. I was trying to remember the name of the driver killed that summer, which is at the top of this thread, Charlie Bubeck, and car #51, I thought it was #15, and I’m pretty sure the car was blue with white numbers. I was there in the grandstands the night Bubeck was killed, July or August? and still remember a lot about it. I think it was the first or second lap of the feature and there were maybe 3 cars abreast going into turn 3 and I noticed #51 way low against the inside guard rail and coming up for the lead and as the 3 or 4 cars were coming around turn 4 I noticed a lot of side to side pushing and shoving and the #51 got shoved further to the inside and there was a big cloud of dust in turn 4 and as those lead cars came down the front stretch #51 was not running with them, but was in that cloud of dust. There was a crossover into the pits in the middle of turn 4, and the outer opening had a gate that was closed during the race, however that inside pit entrance in turn 4 did not have a gate and that is where #51 ran into the hurricane or chain link fence and a horizontal cross brace is what came through the car and killed Charlie Bubeck. The car was actually pushed sideways into that pit entrance opening which lined it up with the fencing that started there and ran from there to the pit opening on the front stretch by the stage area. I also remember the announcer asking if there was a doctor in attendance, and one came to the flag stand gate and went up the track to the accident scene. Yes the crowd was quiet for quite a while, and I think it was announced that Charlie Bubeck had died, and we had a moment of silence. It’s going on 59 years ago that it happened, and as a then 12 year old it made quite an impression on me. However I have an abundance of excellent memories of attending races before and after that night in 1962.

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